Serie A: Players cleared for training from May 4

Group training sessions for Serie A teams will begin only from May 18 as Italy begins to ease on its coronavirus lockdown.

Players will have to maintain social distancing during training.   -  AFP

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday delayed a decision on restarting Serie A football but gave the green light for top athletes to resume training in a week's time.

Conte unveiled the first details of how the country will emerge from a lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has officially claimed more than 26,000 lives in Italy and 200,000 worldwide.

He said individual athletes would be allowed to resume training on May 4. Teams could start to train together again on May 18.

But Conte did not say when Serie A might resume a season interrupted on March 9 with Juventus leading Lazio by a point.

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Speaking at a media conference about the sport so beloved in his country, Conte said: "I am passionate about football, like many Italians, so it did seem strange that the season could be suspended, but even the most passionate supporters realised there was no alternative.

"Minister for sport Vincenzo Spadafora will work intensively over the next few days with the experts, scientists and sporting figures to undertake training individually from May 4, in groups from May 18, and then we'll evaluate if there are the conditions to allow the season to be completed.

"Right now, we need to complete all the discussions to ensure that if we do reach that stage, we'll do so in the utmost safety and security. We are passionate about sport and don't want our idols to get ill."

Italian football chiefs agreed on Thursday to push back the end of the Serie A season from June 30 to August 2.

Italy's minister for sport urges caution

Italy's minister for sport has warned there are no guarantees over the return of Serie A despite plans to ease lockdown measures.

"We'll resume training for team sports from May 18, but only if the conditions of safety and security can be confirmed over the next few weeks," he told Rai 1, with Serie A having been halted in March.

"I don't wish to penalise or slow down the resumption of football, but I have to say we'll see because there need to be rigid and certain protocols in place on the safety of the athletes.

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"The FIGC (Italian Football Federation) presented a protocol last night and the scientific committee considered it insufficient, so it needs adjustments. Only from that moment, when the protocol is agreed, can we decide whether or not to restart football.

"We realise that the world of football deserves respect and support, as it is one of the largest economic resources in the country."

(With inputs from AFP)

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